Sunday Opinion: Good Hands

hanging-a-garland.jpgWatching this garland go up yesterday, it occurred to me that the real story of our holiday landscaping is about the people who make it all happen.  Rob, Sunne, Monica, Christine, Shannon, Scott and Margarita make sure that Detroit Garden Works is stocked with every material we might need. From fresh cut great quality greens,branches and cones, picks in every conceivable color and style, lighting both stock and custom made, to zip ties and bamboo poles in bulk, this wide range of materials makes it possible to put a look together.  If you shop at Detroit Garden Works, you probably have put the names with the faces, as they do such a great job of interacting with people.

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The people who work for the landscape design and installation division, Deborah Silver and Co, work behind the scenes. They do all the fabrication, and installation of our projects.  It may be startling that a group of people who know how to lay out a landscape, plant, and finish an installation know how to construct and install winter and holiday containers and garlands, but they do.  Each one of the eight of them has their particular strengths. To their great credit, they all know how to work well with one another to bring a project to life. They certainly deserve the lion’s share of the credit for everything we do.

holiday-garland.jpgThe columns are quite beautiful.  They did not need anything in the way of decoration. My preference was that the garland would seem to drop at the outside edge of the porch roof. The fascia would need enough screws and concrete wire to hold the heavy garland.  Owen and David, who usually take the lead in an installation, added a pair of vinyl covered steel poles at either end. This would provide an armature that would take the garland wide of the columns.

holiday-garlands.jpgFour people and 4 pairs of hands made the business of getting the garland aloft a graceful and fairly quick affair.  All of the design and fabrication issues had been dealt with in the garage. All of the installation issues were reviewed and planned on the ground. It was easy to locate the center of the porch roof.  The dentil molding on the underside of the overhand was symmetrical.  This garland would be hung in the center first, and then progressively, out to each edge.

holiday-garlands.jpgEveryone involved with hanging the garland could rely on the integrity of the fabrication. The top, bottom and front face of the garland was clearly marked.  The plug for the lights was on the left side, as the only exterior electrical outlet was on that side. Every element, even those we attach on long wires to permit rearranging, were securely attached.

holiday-garland.jpgIt was a pleasure to watch the four of them work. While we 5 were on this installation, 3 people were in the garage, working on our next project.

holiday-pots.jpgWe did put lighted winter containers on the porch, on either side of the door.  The porch roof makes this a dark spot, in spite of a ceiling fixture. A pair of wire baskets were lined with moss sheeting, and filled with mulch and soil.  The centerpieces were comprised of several bunches of cut pussy willow. Fresh cut magnolia and gold poly mesh  added another layer of interest.  AG does most of our exterior lighting and hookups.  A strand of lights tucked behind the magnolia would light the pussy willow at night.  A strand of garland lights would illuminate the mixed noble and silver fir. An extension cord was place right next to the step up into the house, and covered with a door mat, for safety’s sake.

garland-detail.jpgThe garland detail

holiday-decorating.jpgA pair of pots with boxwood had been on the top tier of the stair pillars.  We moved them down one level, so all four pots would be visible from the street.

holiday-garden.jpgThe crew that made and installed this garland is a highly skilled crew indeed. They have expanded their skills in ways of which I am very proud. We have worked together a long time, and it shows.

night-light.jpgMy clients sent me this picture last night. They are pleased, and so are we.

 

In The Pink

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The dark days are here.  The needled foliage of the yews are not spring or summer green.  They are black green.  The colder the weather, the darker the color.  By contrast with the snow, the boxwood foliage is dark too.  I don’t mind it, really.  Not now.  But as the winter drags on and on, that brown, black green, black, gray and white can get to be tiresome.  Not that I envy gardeners in California.  I wouldn’t trade how one season gives way to the next for a warm and sunny winter.  Having grown up in the midwest, a warm and sunny winter would just seem wrong.

pink-eucalyptus.jpgBut I won’t have to worry about coping with a limited and severe color palette.  My winter garden in front of my house will be in the pink-dreary winter month after dreary winter month.  Does the pink in this pot seem implausible?  Not to my eye.  The curly copper willow looks great with the brick.  The gold sinamay has enough orange and enough mass to look like a party. The pink eucalyptus has a lavender cast, set against the cinnamon brown willow.  Pink is by no means a traditional holiday color, but why not?   How a color reads has everything to do with its relationship to neighboring colors.  Color also reads so differently in daylight, or night light. Suffice it to say, we will have an abundance of gray days the next few months.  I like the idea of unexpected winter color.

holiday-garland.jpgThe holiday garland features pink bits.  Funny how what seemed in the studio to be overwhelmingly pink looks so much more reserved outdoors.

evergreen-garland.jpgIt is hard to make out the individual elements from the street.  There is the dark green of the evergreen boughs, punctuated by a color and forms that attract the eye.  Pink may be out of season in the garden, but it is in season in my holiday garden.  Of course anyone who comes to the door gets a clearer view.  That is the point, of course.  My landscape has a street presentation-neat, simple and well kept-and not especially given to the personal details. Those details are reserved for people I know and expect.  For a guest that arrives at the front door, there is an element of surprise.

pink-eucalyptus.jpgI would call this a juicy look.  In contrast to the austere look of the overall winter landscape. I favor juicy, no matter the season.  As in hellebores in really early spring, tulips in the late spring, and roses in June, and the hibiscus in late summer. I like flowers in the landscape.  Clematis in bloom is quite unlike the color of any other green plant.  As much as I like boxwood, yews, hosta, lady’s mantle and Princeton Gold maples, I like colors other than green-no matter the season.

winter-pot.jpgWhite in the winter is a regular feature.  Snow is snow.  In this picture, the orange and pink looks companionable to the remains of my hydrangeas.  The color scheme fits right in.  The snow makes its own demands visually.  Everything snow touches turns their color close to black.  Snow that falls on temperature darkened ever greens is all about the contrast between black and white.

tree-in-the-side-yard.jpgMy pot in the side garden has a cut Christmas tree in it, strung with 7 strands of mini lights. At night, the glow is visible from the street, and from the south side of my house.  I find that warm light comforting.  Appropriate to the season.  The lights add another color to the winter landscape-a warm color.

parrotia-in-winter.jpgLest you think there is no pink in the Michigan landscape in the third week of December, I invite you to give a look at my Parrotia.  It is the very last tree in my yard to change color.  The leaves are a brilliant yellow in late fall.  This tree has yet to give up its leaves.  They might stay stuck the entire winter.  The dry leaves are pink – granted a muddy subtle brownish pink.  But pink,  nonetheless.

 

At A Glance: More Holiday Garlands

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It’s December in the garden.  Time to hang it up.

 

Festooned

A festoon is a decorative chain or strip hung between two points-this I relay to you from the dictionary. The holiday celebration provide plenty of encouragement  to drape, swag, run, attach, and hang garlands-both inside and out.  A garland can be a wreath-hung on a door.  Or placed horizontally over the top of a birdbath.  Or over the light fixtures at the front door.  Or in the windows. A wreath in every window-lovely. 

A length of garland, or a festoon, can be made from lots of materials, strung together.  Evergreen garlands are our most popular garland.  An evergreen garland is not only beautfiul to look at, it smells great.  All of our garland is custom made, from three diferent types of fir.  Douglas, noble and concolor fir make an evergreen garland with lots of volume.   

 Our garlands are triple the size of ordinary garland. I like a generous look over a door, or swagged on a gate.  In places where an entrance is really large, I double over the garland, which makes it between 15-18 inches wide.  Fresh garland of this size is extremely heavy-all of those branches are attached to wood from whence those green branches came. 

 

If we need 50 feet of garland to go over an entrance or porch, we cut that garland in half, and reattach it in the center, so the branches are pointing in the same direction, whether they are on the left side, or the right side.  I find a garland where the branches go up one side, and down the other visually disconcerting. All up, or all down-take your pick.

 Should the branch tips face up, or down?  I like all of the leaves of a magnolia garland to face up.  As the leaves dry, they succumb to gravity, fall, and open up.  This makes the garland wider.  The leaves curl beautifully as they dry.  An upfacing position will give each leaf room to make its own statement.   If magnolia leaves face down, they will close even tighter as they dry-gravity will make the leaves hug the woody stems.

 

Evergreen garland hung with the branches facing up will have a wild, cottagy, and rustic look.  The branches will fall out and down.  This is a great look for a large stone fireplace, an oversized wood arbor, a wood fence of good size, or over the barn door.  An evergreen garland for a more formal home might be more subtle and contained, with the branches facing down.

Many garlands are created by tieing boughs to a stout rope.  Thus the word-roping.  The rope is much more flexible than the boughs-eventually the greens will conform to the shape in which they are hung.  A small garland designed for a dining room table might have small branches wired to make a length, as pictured above.  A garland can be very short, and very striking.  Or very long, and equally striking.

Garland on a mantel can be a challenge, if the mantle is very shallow.  I have never been successful in convincing a clients to put brads in a mantel, so I can wire the garland to it-I have no idea why.  This is why garland clips and heavy candlesticks are so popular on the mantel-they keep the garland in place.  I sometimes put heavy pots on a mantel, and tuck the garland behind them.  This keeps everything secure.

We do on occasion attach boughs to a stout bamboo stake, cut a foot or two shorter than the mantel.  The stake keeps the entire assemblage where it belongs on a very shallow mantle.  If you choose this method of construction, be sure to cut off the branchlets on the back side, so the pole can sit right next to the wall.  We almost always insert extra greens into the garland after it is in place, so it looks thick and full.

To drape, or not to drape?  In very formal rooms, I like the garland the width of the mantel.  If the garland in a formal room drapes to the floor, how the garland pools on the floor is very important.  Pooling garland on the floor like heavy taffeta drapes can be beautiful.  On occasion, on a formal exterior portico, I will widen the garland at the bottom, so it pools like heavy drapes.  This means adding extra branches, or an extra section of garland about half way down. 

 In informal rooms, I love the evergreen mantel garland to the floor.  Bulky, not too controlled, and friendly.  I like it loaded with  other natural materials.  Sugar pine cones, dried stems, eucalyptus, berries-the list of materials that can festoon your garland is long.  Wired burlap ribbon, twisted and swagged, can be a beautiful companion.

Not all garlands need to be constructed from evergreens.  Rob is well known for his light garland design-we make lots of them.  They may look a little stilted when they are first hung-be sure you measure the lengths you are swagging-do not count on your eye.  Once those light garlands come on, the heat warms the wires-when warm, they swoop beautifully.

 

Any material can be attached along a flexible base to make a garland.  Pine cone garlands are dense and stiff.  They are great in a straight run.  Need them to drop?  Cut them, and rewire at that spot you need them change direction.  A few years ago I found tubes of platinum colored bead garlands in 30 foot lengths at English Gardens.  They were beautiful on my tree-like jewelry.  Gorgeous garland.

Festive-this is what  garland provides to a home and a garden at the holidays.  This holiday garland is quietly elegant.  Just like my clients.   My garland over my front door-I leave it up all winter.  If the neighbors think I am eccentric, they don’t say so.  It could be they like it as much as I do.